It's not funny, but Rick Larkin still laughs about it.
On March 21, the licensee and owner of Larrikins in Jeparit opened the doors to the Roy Street pub for the first time, ending two years without a local watering hole for the Hindmarsh Shire town.
One day later, pandemic restrictions came in and closed him down again.
"I was at a friend's place at lunch, and I decided to go and open the doors because I wasn't sure how much longer I was going to be allowed open for," he said.
"As I'm cleaning down the bar, I'm watching the television, and I got to the beer tap in the middle when I hear I have to close down, so I threw down the rag and poured myself a beer."
Though he reopened in early June when restrictions lifted, Mr Larkin said it was hard for him to make money. Even so, he is not planning to use any government programs to see himself through the pandemic.
"It's not overly viable, but the community expects it to be open, so I've got to do it for them. I'm just plugging away at my own expense," he said.
"I've got a bit of help, but no staff. If I look into government funding and the catch is you've only been open since a certain date, then I can't take advantage of it.
"I'm not going to be chasing anything, but support from locals would be great."
Mr Larkin said he was not eligible for the federal government's JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.
He bought the pub, which still has the Hopetoun House Hotel signage, in November, coming to the region to be with family after 15 years working as a Contiki tour driver in the United States. He said the pub was previously owned by a man named Trevor Roberts, who sadly died before he could reopen it.
On Friday, the state government announced a package to support businesses through the pandemic, including $30 million for hospitality, $26 million in mental health support for small business owners and extended deferral of payroll tax.
A spokesman told the Mail-Times these measures only applied to areas of Victoria in stage three lockdown - Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. However, since July 2 regional caravan parks, hotels and motels have been able to claim up to $225 per night for up to five nights for each room cancellation due to the return of Stage three restrictions, provided they refund the booking in full.
Mr Larkin said he thought mental health support would be useful for regional small business owners, but not him personally.
"The way I see it, there are a lot of people struggling worse than I am at the moment. That keeps my head above water," he said.
"Cafe owners that have spent tens of thousands of dollars on stock they have had to throw out, and are relying on JobKeeper, those are the type of people that probably need a lot of help."
Mr Larkin also said he hoped residents in the Wimmera's small towns would stay cautious and not become complacent.
In Hindmarsh Shire, as of Friday, there is yet to be a recorded case of coronavirus.
"Morale is good in most small towns around here I think," he said. "I think there is the impression this area won't be affected, but sometimes you see people coming and going from the town and realise we're not immune from the virus."
- Rural Outreach Program 1300 OUTREACH email@example.com
- Headspace Horsham Youth Counselling 5381 1543 www.headspace.org.au
- The Salvation Army Horsham - 5382 1770 Kaniva - 5392 2304 Stawell - 5358 4072 Ararat - 5352 2720 www.salvationarmy.org.au/horsham
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
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